Are You Getting What You Paid For?

By Stephanie Powers | February 01, 2010 AAA
Are You Getting What You Paid For?

Product manufacturers have been reducing the size of their products without reducing their prices, so there has never been a better time to analyze the value of the things you buy. You can conserve every penny of every dollar by carefully monitoring how much you are buying and the price you pay for what you get. Here are some of the new threats to your budget.

Less Than Before
In an effort to curb costs, consumer product manufacturers are reducing the amount of product while maintaining prices. For example, a jug of Tropicana orange juice was reduced by seven ounces from the original 96 ounces because the company argued doing so made it easier to pour. The new jug is only slightly smaller, so that you won't notice unless it is sitting next to the old bottle. An October 2008 Consumer Reports investigation found that some manufacturers have reduced product sizes from 5% to 15%, while keeping the price the same. Manufacturers cite the increasing cost of ingredients as a reason for the change. To combat this stealthy price hike, shoppers must vigilantly read labels - even on the brands they purchase every week - to notice changes and accurately compare prices.

Budget Busting Package Design
Sometimes it seems like manufacturers design packaging to prevent you from using the entire contents of a container. A classic example is the toothpaste tube. It requires major surgery to swipe the last little bit on your toothbrush. And when is the last time you used the last few drops from a spray bottle? The bottle could contain anything from a household cleanser to hair care products, but they all have one thing in common - the straw from the pump or spray nozzle is not long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle. You inevitably have to twist the top off and attempt to pour out a product that was supposed to be squirted, causing you to waste some of it.

The end result is that you repurchase more often, crashing your budget while the company makes more money. Instead, pour squirtable or spray liquids into a bottle with a longer tube. Empty bottles are available at discount stores in a variety of sizes. (For more budget friendly tips, see 5 Money-Saving Shopping Tips.)

Costly Needless Extras
We've been conditioned to believe that package deals save money, but some bundles contain stuff you don't really need. If you wouldn't normally purchase all the services bundled in your telecommunications bill, the price may not be cheaper than buying them separately or from different providers. New computers come pre-loaded with software or sometimes the retailer offers a printer package. In the case of software, check to see if the full-featured software license is included or just trial versions. If you're in the market for a printer, make sure the one you're getting in the bundle is worth what your paying. In short, figure out what you need before shopping and compare prices based on your budget. (For more on how stores get you to buy, see Sneaky Strategies That Fuel Overspending.)

Tricky Unit Pricing
If a "concentrated" formula allows more uses per ounce, it can be difficult to compare products by price per ounce. Suddenly, consumers have to calculate and compare the number of uses in a smaller sized bottle with the number for a larger bottle, and often the price per ounce is the only thing on the shelf label. It can be a trying calculation, but paying close attention to the usage suggestions helps you determine how often you will need to repurchase.

Be Heard
Don't just take it when products don't live up to your standards. Traditional shopping theory involved analyzing brands once and then continuously buying that one brand. These days, consumers need to be constantly looking out for changes in packaging, content volume, and formulas. Fortunately, today's consumers have the ability to communicate directly with product manufacturers. Participating in online surveys, Facebook posts and Twitter messages helps manufacturers understand what's important to customers - that is, what you will pay for and what you won't stand for.

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